For former boxer turned mob enforcer Terry Quinn, not being smart enough to know when to quit has been both his lifelong blessing and curse. Once on track to fight for the heavyweight title, his refusal to take a dive in a fixed fight – opting to kill his opponent in the ring instead – lead to his license being revoked and his career derailed.
As one door closed another opened, however, and through it walked crime boss Archie Doyle. A man with tremendous ambition, Doyle knew he’d need a dependable crew around him to reach his goals, and he wanted Quinn to be his right-hand man. His prospects severely limited, Quinn accepted, and the two never looked back.
A decade later, Doyle’s 1930s New York City empire–illicit gambling clubs, bootlegging and speakeasies–is still managing to do well at the outset of the Great Depression, but he’s smart enough to understand the gravy train won’t last forever and hatches a plan to set himself up for life beyond Prohibition.
When one of his key lieutenants is the target of an assassination attempt, Doyle sends Quinn to question the right-hand man of his rival. Things go incredibly sideways, and before he knows it Quinn is at the center of an all-out gang war. With Doyle’s competition swearing he had no involvement in the hit, and the once complacent–and on the payroll–cops and politicians getting antsy, Quinn must figure out who’s really behind the escalating violence if there’s any hope of salvaging Doyle’s big plan…and for them all to stay alive.
Terrence McCauley’s Prohibition is a rollicking throwback to the gangster yarns of old. Not content to simply offer up the stereotypical Tommy gun toting thugs and bombshell dames, however, McCauley builds his story around a wonderfully plotted mystery: who’s behind the strategic attempts to bring down Doyle’s empire? And at the center of it all is Terry Quinn, a character who manages to feel both as “of the era” as you can get, but whom you could just as easily see lifted off the page and dropped down into a story set 40 or 50 years later. A physically imposing man who has no problem resorting to violence when necessary, Quinn is much smarter than most give him credit for, something which works in his favor as he attempts to keep Doyle alive and his empire from crumbling.
The cast of surrounding characters is equally well-drawn. From Doyle’s rivals Howard Rothman and Ira Shiparo, to Detectives on the take Doherty and Halloran, to sleazy gossip columnist Wendell Bixby and corrupt Mayor Jimmy Walker, to the mysterious and misplaced Southern gentleman Simon Wallace and Quinn’s on-again off-again flame and nightclub singer Alice Mulgrew, each is colorful and complex, and none is quite what they initially appear to be. And while the mystery elevates Prohibition beyond a paint-by-numbers gangster story, that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of gun-blazing action. From pool hall brawls to shootouts in the streets to an edge of your seat showdown finale, Prohibition is as fast-paced as it is well-plotted.
It’s easy to misstep when writing a period piece, especially one set during a time that has been covered so extensively already in both books and film. But McCauley strikes just the right balance between historical accuracy and shoot ’em up fun in Prohibition, carving out a nice little niche for himself in the guise of Terry Quinn. Already set to make an appearance in the Fight Card series (Fight Card: Against the Ropes, coming soon), I certainly hope that is merely the first of more Quinn adventures.
One final note: In addition to its wonderful cover, Prohibition also features nine interior illustrations by artist Rob Moran, noted for his noir-inspired art, which really capture the feel of things and compliment the story incredibly well.
Prohibition is available from Polis Books.